Remember the Car Accident That Nearly Ended Patsy Cline’s Career?
Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in 1963, but she very nearly lost her career and her life in a terrible car accident two years before.
Cline was a fast-rising county star by 1961, having scored her first hit, "Wakin' After Midnight," in 1957 after two years of non-charting records. A long dry spell followed until Cline scored her second hit in 1961 with "I Fall to Pieces," which gave her her first No. 1 single in 1961.
The singer and her brother, Sam, were involved in a head-on car crash in Nashville on June 14, 1961, that threw Cline into the windshield, causing facial injuries. Country singer Dottie West was one of Cline's close friends, and she would later recount picking glass from Cline's hair after arriving on the scene. Cline insisted the other driver receive treatment first, and both she and West would later recall seeing her die at the scene.
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Cline spent a month in the hospital due to her injuries, which included a broken wrist, dislocated hip and a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches. But she was determined to continue her career, and it wasn't long before Cline was back onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, performing on crutches to reassure her fans that she would return, according to the PBS program American Masters.
She was soon back in the studio to record "Crazy," written by a young Nashville songwriter named Willie Nelson. She reportedly recorded the song while still on crutches, and Cline had to return to the studio and overdub her vocal performance to the instrumental track after a four-hour session did not yield a satisfactory vocal take, due to the difficulty of the song and the pain she was still experiencing. According to the book Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, she returned to the road within six weeks, performing on crutches while continuing to heal. Cline was obliged to use wigs, makeup and bandanas to hide her scars for the rest of her career.
"Crazy" reached No. 2, and Cline followed up with another No. 1 hit in "She's Got You." She landed two more hits in 1962 with "When I Get Thru With You" and "So Wrong," which were destined to be some of the final hits of her lifetime.
Cline died on March 5, 1963, when the small private plane she was traveling on while returning to Nashville after performing at a benefit in Kansas City, Kan., crashed in a heavy downpour in Camden, Tenn., 90 miles outside of Nashville. Everyone on board was killed instantly, including Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and the pilot, Randy Hughes. Roger Miller and a friend went searching for the wreckage the following morning, and ended up being among the first to find the plane and its occupants.
Cline released one final single, "Leavin' on Your Mind," in January of 1963 before her death. She scored posthumous hits with "Sweet Dreams" and "Faded Love." Her legend continued to grow after her death, leading to a long string of posthumous hits collections and live releases. In 1985, Jessica Lange was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Cline in the biopic Sweet Dreams.
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